Health Study Activities Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Birth Defects and Childhood Cancer Study
1. What progress has ATSDR made on its study of contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune and specific birth defects and childhood cancers?
ATSDR’s study on specific birth defects and childhood cancers includes children born from 1968 through 1985 to mothers who for some time during their pregnancy were exposed to drinking water contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at Camp Lejeune. The study looks at whether these children have increased risk for specific birth defects and childhood cancers. Participants were interviewed in spring/summer 2005 about where they lived at Camp Lejeune, their medical history, and their personal habits.
Currently ATSDR is also completing its water modeling of the base. Water modeling is a scientific method that will help ATSDR estimate water-system conditions prior to March 1987. Water modeling will help identify where and when certain areas at Camp Lejeune received VOC-contaminated drinking water.
We will use the water modeling results to determine which mothers were exposed to contaminated water. The study on specific birth defects and childhood cancers should be completed in 2012.
2. Which conditions does ATSDR's study of specific birth defects and childhood cancers include?
The study includes neural tube defects (NTDs), consisting of anencephaly (absence of a major portion of the brain) and spina bifida; oral cleft defects; and childhood leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
A 1999–2002 telephone survey identified 106 parent-reported cases of these birth defects and cancers in children born between 1968 and 1985 to women who for some time during their pregnancies lived at Camp Lejeune. The parents reported:
- 35 neural tube defects;
- 42 oral cleft defects; and
- 29 childhood cancers.
The status of the reported cases is:
- 52 were confirmed to have the reported disease consisting of
- 15 neural tube defects,
- 24 oral cleft defects and
- 13 hematopoietic cancers
- 32 were confirmed not to have the reported diseases
- 8 refused to participate
- 7 could not be verified (there were no medical records)
- 7 were ineligible
3. Why does the ATSDR study on specific birth defects and childhood cancers examine only the period from 1968 to 1985?
The study is restricted to children born between 1968 and 1985 because:
- North Carolina began computerizing birth certificate information in 1968, and
- the heavily contaminated wells were shut down in 1985.
However, any findings from the study would also apply to children born before 1968 if the mothers lived in housing that received contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune. Searching for those born prior to North Carolina's system going on-line would have been extremely difficult.
4. Why does the study of specific birth defects and childhood cancers focus only on a few birth defects rather than all birth defects?
The study includes neural tube defects, cleft lip, and cleft palate, and two childhood cancers: leukemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. ATSDR chose to study these birth defects and childhood cancers because previous studies suggest that the chemicals in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune might cause these health effects.
5. Can you add me to the study of birth defects and childhood cancers?
The current study is closed. Data collection for this study ended in July 2005.
6. Why isn't ATSDR studying other diseases or health problems that might be related to the water contamination at Camp Lejeune?
ATSDR decided to focus first on specific birth defects and specific childhood cancers because the fetus and very young children are the most vulnerable to chemical exposures. However, ATSDR next plans to study a wide range of health problems among adults. In April 2010, ATSDR began conducting a mortality study that includes former Marines and Navy personnel, and civilian workers stationed at Camp Lejeune during the period of drinking water contamination. ATSDR plans to begin conducting a health survey of former Marines and Navy personnel, their dependents, and civilian workers in Spring 2011.
Former residents and employees of Camp Lejeune can now register at the official Marine Corps water study website for notification and information regarding past drinking water contamination. The address is https://clnr.hqi.usmc.mil/. You can also contact the Marine Corps Call Center staff at 1-877-261-9782, Monday through Friday, between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. The health survey will be sent to everyone who registers with the USMC.
Each study we conduct will help us understand more about the health effects from exposure to the water contamination at Camp Lejeune. These studies will also add to the limited scientific information that is available about the health effects of drinking water contaminated with volatile organic compounds. The studies will also provide support for preventing such exposures to other communities in the future.↑back to top
Health Survey Information
1. Why are you doing the health survey?
On January 28, 2008, President Bush signed the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act. This required ATSDR to develop a health survey of persons possibly exposed to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune.
2. Who was eligible for the survey?
Anyone who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune during the period of drinking water contamination was eligible for the survey. ATSDR couldn't identify all of these people from available records, so we sent the survey to the people we could identify.
People who received the survey included:
- former active duty marines and sailors who were stationed at Camp Lejeune anytime between April 1975 and December 1985
- civilian employees who worked at the base anytime between October 1972 nd December 1985
- People who took part in ATSDR’s 1999-2002 survey
- a sample of former active duty and civilian workers from Camp Pendleton
- people who requested a health survey by registering with the United States Marine Corps before June 30, 2011 (this effort is ongoing)
3. Why did you survey former active duty and civilian workers from Camp Pendleton?
Active duty and civilians who worked at Camp Pendleton and Camp Lejeune are similar except for their exposures to chemicals in drinking water. The information from those who lived at Camp Pendleton allows us to compare the health experiences between these two groups. This will help us determine if contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune affected people’s health.
4. What conditions did the health survey ask about?
The health survey asked questions about more than twenty different cancers and other diseases. People also had space to report other diseases not mentioned in the survey.
5. When was the survey sent?
The surveys were mailed in waves about every three weeks from June 2011 through December 2011.
6. Why didn’t I get a survey?
You may not have received a survey because you are not part of one of the groups included in the health survey. The following groups were included in the health survey:
- former active duty marines and sailors who were stationed at Camp Lejeune anytime during April 1975 and December 1985
- civilian employees who worked at the base anytime during October 1972 to December 1985
- people who took part in ATSDR’s 1999-2002 survey
- a sample of former active duty and civilian workers from Camp Pendleton
- people who requested a health survey by registering with the USMC by June 30, 2011
Even if you did not receive a survey, if you lived or worked at one of the bases during this time, the results will apply to you.
7. When will the survey results be available?
We expect to release the survey findings in 2014. Until then, we will be collecting, analyzing and scientifically verifying the results reported by participants.
ATSDR will make survey results available through a web broadcast. Survey participants will receive a summary of the final report. The findings of the survey also will be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.↑back to top
What other studies is ATSDR planning to conduct?
ATSDR began conducting a mortality study in April 2010. The study is looking at all causes of death, including cancers and other fatal diseases to determine if there is a link between the death and exposure to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune. The study focuses on marines who started active duty on or after April 1975 and who were stationed at Camp Lejeune anytime between April 1975 and December 1985. The study also focuses on civilian employees who began work with the Department of Defense on or after April 1974 and who worked at Camp Lejeune anytime between April 1974 to December 1985.
The mortality study also includes an unexposed sample of former active duty and civilian workers from Camp Pendleton.↑back to top
1997 Public Health Assessment (PHA)
1. Why did the 1997 PHA not mention benzene was present in well 602?
The 1997 PHA does mention benzene in Appendix B (page B-2-4). It does not mention or discuss benzene in the main body of the PHA because we assumed, incorrectly at the time, that well # 602 was not used to supply contaminated drinking water to residents of Camp Lejeune.
2. Why did ATSDR remove the 1997 PHA from the ATSDR Camp Lejeune website?
In the time since the 1997 PHA was published, additional information emerged related to exposures to volatile organic compounds in drinking water at Camp Lejeune. Due in part to ATSDR’s ongoing extensive water modeling and exposure reconstruction study, we learned that communities serviced by the Holcomb Boulevard distribution system were exposed to contaminated water for a longer period than we knew in 1997. Also, at the Camp Lejeune site, benzene was present in one drinking-water supply well in the Hadnot Point drinking water system. That well was shut down sometime prior to 1985. This information should have been included in the PHA but was not. The PHA should have mentioned the contamination and stated that the extent of exposure to benzene from that well was unknown.
3. When will the revised PHA be available?
ATSDR plans to revise the PHA once the water modeling study is complete. Water modeling is a scientifically complex. In the meantime, we continue to stand behind the information related to the other nine pathways.↑back to top